Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett, the head of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, spoke up in defense of the hareidi-religious community on Wednesday following a mob attack Tuesday on a hareidi soldier.

The attack on the soldier illustrates a danger, he agreed. “The incident yesterday in Mea Shearim was extremely serious, and I trust the police to handle it. Whoever harms one of our soldiers will be punished. Period,” he wrote in a post to Facebook.

“But what is no less dangerous is the condemnation of the entire hareidi community, when it’s clear to everyone that this was a particularly extremist group,” he cautioned.

“We will integrate the hareidi community in the workforce and the army through dialogue, not escalation,” he wrote.

Bennett added, “As Tisha B’Av approaches, we must seek calm, not hatred among brothers.” Tisha B’Av commemorates the First Temple and Second Temple which were destroyed on that date; according to Jewish tradition, the Second Temple was destroyed due to hatred between Jews.

He had a message for the soldier himself, as well. “Be strong. We are all with you.”

The hareidi-religious Shas party issued a condemnation earlier, expressing "disgust" at the attack and calling the attackers "wicked."

The incident has drawn widespread condemnation from all sides of the political spectrum, and has raised concerns about incitement against Chareidi soldiers in particular from the more extreme fringes of their own community.